THE PRINCIPLE REASON that Paul Henry is back on New Zealand breakfast television is because he isn't on Australian breakfast television.
His breakfast show on Australia's Ten Network bombed spectacularly in the ratings. It pulled in roughly one-tenth of the number of viewers that its morning rivals were getting with an audience of just 30,000. Consequently it was making no money for the commercial network despite costing $7 million to produce - $1 million of that reportedly pocketed by Paul Henry.
So the show was axed. Clearly Australian viewers did not appreciate what a mega-talent Paul Henry is. One viewer observed: "Get rid of the nasty guy with glasses and ratings may rise."
And a former Ten executive described the hiring of Paul Henry as “the worst on-air appointment I’ve seen in 20 years”
So Henry returned to New Zealand and through the doors of TV3, who were more than happy to replace Nightline with the mega-talented broadcaster. Despite the hype, the former National Party candidate's show did no better than its predecessor.
But now TV3 has poured its resources into a new breakfast show for Henry. It's been a long time in the making, we're nearly a quarter of a way into the year already, but the show has finally arrived.
Thanks to a rude and noisy quake that woke me around three this morning, I was up and about at 6am when Paul Henry hit the airwaves. I watched the first two hours or so which was more than enough.
The show's principal selling point, as TV3 has been constantly reminding the nation , is that it is a multi-platform show. That means its broadcast on TV3, Radio Live and the internet, all at the same time. Gosh. 'I'm everywhere,' exclaims Henry in the promos. Like a particularly nasty flu virus.
A lot of the early comments I've read have zeroed in on the show's format. The format is indeed different but that's largely the result of the show having to translate to radio. Does it work? Do you care? Do you want to have a conversation about style dominating over substance? How much money is Mediaworks saving by axing Radio Live's own stand alone show?
What's been missing in the commentary I've read is the bleeding obvious. The content is bog standard. It's largely indistinguishable from TV3's other breakfast show efforts and also not a whole lot different from what the opposition are doing over on TV1. Paul Henry and his mates don't sit on a couch like Rawdon Christie and Ali Pugh and the show employs some different camera angles, but this isn't a major step forward in news content - just the same old predictable corporate-approved stuff wrapped up differently.
The question is how long it will take for Henry to cut loose and bash the nasty left wing? At what point won't he be able to control himself? TV3 has forgiven Henry for his political transgressions that got him sacked from TVNZ and which also failed to impress an Australian audience, but I think the bash will come eventually. Possibly sooner if the ratings are disappointing.
Henry was mostly on his best behaviour during the first show but I have to say his cosy chat with John Key was as affectionate as anything Christie and Pugh have done on TV1. It had me reaching for the remote.
The Prime Minister observed that the studio set up was 'flash' and 'different' but he had nothing fear from Henry. Just like TV1's Breakfast or Mike Hosking on NewstalkZB, Paul Henry will always allow the government to put its best foot forward.